THE STORY BEHIND
is dedicated to all the grannies and young girls of the Kalahari, says Betta, because in days gone by Bushmen girls having their first period would undergo a ritual that sounds weird, even upsetting, to many modern people.
Back then, a small cage was built in which the girl would be locked up and where she’d eat and sleep for about a month. She’d have no contact with men or other women – only the grandmothers would visit the cage to tell her everything about womanhood and cooking.
“During the day, the would teach her about the food of the veld, the berries and the roots, the pips of the tsamma melon, how to roast [made from the roots of the or shepherd’s tree] and how to clean around the fire. That says when you’re bleeding, you can’t prepare food because people will blow up. She says the blood is secret; young men mustn’t know about it,” is how the narrator in the play puts it.
The grannies would also mix goat manure and cream, with which they’d scrub the girl from head to toe before a mixture of rendered fat and crushed red stone was rubbed into Hok: her skin. The girl would be released at a big party hosted in her honour, with feasting and dancing to allay any “(bad luck).
Tannie Lys believes that it’s because modern Bushmen girls no longer undergo this ritual that there are so many teenage pregnancies. “They have no respect for themselves or their bodies,” is her theory.
At the rehearsal of On the left is the quiet Shariva Brow and on the chair Sussie Bock, who plays the role of the narrator. Behind them on the stage is the cage made of laths of wood.